Lawsuits are becoming popular these days.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Apple is suing Qualcomm and Nokia is suing Apple. Still in the technology field, but outside of the corner that is the mobile device market and moving into the automotive industry, Tesla Motors is suing both the former program manager of Tesla’s Autopilot team, Sterling Anderson, and the former technical lead of Google’s self-driving car program, Chris Urmson. Tesla claims Anderson and Urmson “worked together to poach Tesla employees to a new venture Urmson was starting called Aurora Innovation,” as described by The Verge.
The write-up continues, stating, “The complaint, filed in California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, alleges that Anderson attempted to recruit at least 12 Tesla engineers to a new self-driving venture that he and Urmson were starting, in violation of Anderson’s non-solicitation agreement, and that Anderson took confidential Tesla information and ‘destroy[ed] evidence in an effort to cover his tracks.’ Aurora denied all the allegations in a statement.”
Urmson worked as the technical lead for Google’s self-driving car program for two years before announcing back in August of 2016 that he was leaving the company. (He took over the project when Sebastian Thrun, one of the founders, left Google in September of 2016.) Starry-eyed and uncertain of his next move, Urmson said the following about the move.
“If I can find another project that turns into an obsession and becomes something more, I will consider myself twice lucky.” He wasn’t the only one to leave the unit, however.
At the same time of Urmson’s departure, Jiajun Zhu, Google’s self-driving team’s principal software engineer and one of its founders, listed a new role as a startup co-founder on his LinkedIn profile, now known as Nuro Inc., a San Francisco-based company looking to build, program, and design sentient AI and robotics. Additionally, the New York Times reported that Dave Ferguson, another software lead on the unit, left the company as well and now works with Zhu as one of the co-founders of Nuro.
According to The Verge report, “Tesla is alleging that Urmson and Aurora Innovation ‘knew of’ and ‘intended to cause Anderson to breach his agreements with Tesla,'” as well as to “[interfere] with prospective economic advantage” between Tesla and its employees.” Furthermore, it seems “Tesla alleges that Anderson transferred hundreds of gigabytes of ‘Tesla confidential and proprietary information’ to his personal hard drives, and failed to return that information when he left the company, in violation of his contract. It also says he altered the timestamps on files on his company-issued laptop and erased others, ‘all in an attempt to conceal his misdeeds.'”
Telsa’s complaint, filed earlier today, claims that Anderson worked on the new endeavor “on Tesla time, using his Tesla company laptop, and on Tesla’s premises.” The document also reads, “On January 4, 2017, Anderson took his Tesla laptop to Urmson’s home, accessed a document entitled ‘Recruiting targets’ and continued to proceed with their Tesla solicitations. Even after Tesla terminated Anderson that afternoon, he and his partners continued to recruit from Tesla in flagrant disregard of the contractual non-solicit, which survives the end of Anderson’s employment by 12 months.” In other words, Anderson is okay to solicit Tesla employees if he wants and the employees are willing to leave, but only 12 months after his termination — not before.
Sterling Anderson sent the following statement to The Verge from Aurora Innovation.
“Tesla’s meritless lawsuit reveals both a startling paranoia and an unhealthy fear of competition. This abuse of the legal system is a malicious attempt to stifle a competitor and destroy personal reputations. Aurora looks forward to disproving these false allegations in court and to building a successful self-driving business.”
[Featured Image by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]